In support of Volunteers’ Week 2017, we hear from some of Suffolk’s volunteers!
“I don’t have the time” isn’t an excuse for these busy people, because volunteering doesn’t have to be a big commitment. Just spending two minutes when you can is perfect!
Deborah is a company director and mother of two but she also finds time to work as a Police Support Volunteer and volunteer at the Sexual Assault Referral Centre.
Last year she was awarded the Colin Spence Award in recognition of a police volunteer who has demonstrated exceptional commitment.
She said: “I first got into volunteering after watching a television programme about a guy who have up two hours a week to read the newspaper to a blind man. It made his week and I realised that a little effort can go a long way.
“I started volunteering with adults with learning disabilities but after a fairly harrowing burglary I became interested in the police.
“I love being part of a successful team who are making a difference in the community.”
Ros has been a Police Support Volunteer on horseback for Suffolk Constabulary for the last two years. Prior to this, she had never imagined that when out on her horse, she could also be volunteering/ her hobby would evolve into volunteering. As well as patrolling by horse in some of the more rural areas of the county, she also assists in the training of student officers and helps prepare them for active duty.
She said: “I wanted to volunteer to help see the law upheld in Suffolk. I believe we all have a responsibility to contribute to the well-being of our communities and I am an extra pair of eyes in an area I am familiar with.
“I have always done some sort of volunteering work but volunteering with the police has been a particularly interesting and fulfilling role.”
Emma is a volunteer at Inspire Counselling in Ipswich, a professional counselling organisation which provides low cost, long-term counselling to individuals and couples aged 18 and over.
She started as a volunteer receptionist in 2006 and later embarked on the four-year journey to qualifying as a counsellor.
She said: “I had three young children and had been out of work for eight years when I decided to volunteer simply to get out the house.
“I started doing just a few hours a week but I really enjoyed it and then was offered some training opportunities. I now work for the service every week, working with clients who have marriage problems, depression, anxiety or have suffered a bereavement.
“The service that makes a real difference to people who can’t afford to pay for private counselling but it has also built up my own self-esteem.
“I feel like I am doing something valuable.”
Ben is Marketing and Communications Officer at Community Action Suffolk and volunteers by beach cleaning in Felixstowe.
“I started beach cleaning just over a year ago, as I’m proud of Felixstowe and wanted to give something back to the town. I discovered the 2 Minute Beach Clean project, which fitted into my daily routine perfectly. I can spend two minutes at the beach on the way to work, and two minutes on my way home.
“It gets me down to the beach regularly and makes me feel healthier too. By picking up anything that shouldn’t be on the beach, mainly plastics, it saves wildlife and keeps the beach tidy. Through this volunteering I’ve also met similarly minded people, including Chris the Ranger at Landguard Nature Reserve where I’ve subsequently volunteered. I always post images and videos of my beach cleans on Instagram and have discovered a great worldwide network of people there too.
Euan is a volunteer for The Mix, Stowmarket where he helps with drop-in clinics for young people. He said: “I have autism and I chose to volunteer to improve my confidence to speak to new people, young and old as well as gain practical experience while studying Special Education Needs and Disability Studies at university.
“It has allowed me to work with young people with learning difficulties which is something I want to do as a career. It has also helped me realise that I can be myself and people will accept me.
“I help out at The Mix on Thursday afternoons delivering training called Leadership for Life. This helps young people to lead their lives, manage their finances and their relationships with other people.”
I volunteer at one-off events rather than committing because I have my own pet sitting and dog walking business. Whether or not I can volunteer for an event depends on how many dogs we have staying with us at that particular time. We are licensed to take up to 6 dogs plus we have 2 of our own, and so I really don’t like to ask hubby to look after and exercise that many on his own. Some events mean I can do an early morning walk with the dogs and be home in time to walk again in the afternoon. That said, I do have my regular favourite events, and I try to keep the diary clear for those days. I recently saw on the new website the opportunity to assist a visually impaired person get going with their guide dog. This is something I would love to do even though it is a regular commitment. Timings are flexible so I’m sure it would be ok. I also belong to Pop Chorus and we sometimes sing at events to raise funds for St. Elizabeth Hospice, so there can occasionally be a clash of timings!
Volunteering is great. It has always been in my blood, ever since I first volunteered at 14 years old with The Children’s Society. It opens up the world and helps you be part of it. I have travelled the world as a volunteer and truly love the way it opens your eyes to new experiences, people and communities.
When I had my two, very lovely, children, now aged 3 and 5 I found it very difficult to find the time, and truth be told, energy to volunteer ontop of all the other demands that this time of life throws at a working mum. But somehow volunteering has always been central to my heart. But trying to juggle a busy life with this proved problematic.
When an opportunity arose, with the Community Action Suffolk Sport an Event volunteering team to volunteer at The Great East Swim in 2016, I was most certainly interested. But how to do this whilst being a busy mum? Through conversations with the event organiser we stumbled upon the idea of taking my then, 4 year old daughter with me to the event to also volunteer. Which is something that I would like to expose my children to and, really, it would be a great day out too! We were given a suitable job to do – handing out the goodie bags at the end of the swim, which my daughter was super excited about. We were also given (each) a lovely Great East Swim waterproof coat to keep – got to love a freebie! We had a great day. My daughter was the youngest volunteer and I was inspired to sign up for the swim this year.
So all in all, I would say: Family Volunteering is the way forwards. Helping our children see a world beyond their parameters. Educating our children about good citizenship and a world not dominated by money but by goodwill.
Lastly family volunteering helps us to have a jolly good time with our families. And that must be motivation in itself!
Why I decided to start volunteering at the age of 51! Firstly, I was ignorant of the scope and range of opportunities available to those that wish to volunteer; I saw the sign at the Bury Rugby Club which reads “got a complaint – have you thought about volunteering?”. As an ex rugby player I first thought that perhaps I could help out at the club, and whilst this would be a worthy pursuit, I also wanted to do something more impactful… more personal. Being new to the area, I decided to surf for inspiration and via the Volunteer Suffolk website I was introduced to The Voluntary Network.
After a brief spell of necessary administration and vetting, I was introduced to Fred. He was 91 the day before I met him. My own grandparents barely made into their 70’s so I was looking forward to discussing “the world as it was”, but a little concerned that Fred and I would be poles apart! After spending several hours, now, chatting about his life, family, interests and passions, he has given me a new lease of life (not the other way round). His life story is amazing: ex-marine (WWII), steel erector, ex fireman (30 years service), avid tree climber (past) and a Union Chairman for the area…..he’s just amazing.
I’m so glad that I didn’t think “I haven’t got the time” or “I have nothing to offer” and just gave it a go!